Kabuli, is an ambiguous term which provides a sense of identity forAfghanistan's largest heterogeneous urban population without designatingdistinct ethnic associations. The city of Kabul has drawn members of all ethnicgroups in growing numbers since 1776 when it was declared the capital in favorof Kandahar; generations of intermarriages have also taken place. Nevertheless,ethnic roots and regional links have always also remained important. This isreflected in the spatial layout of the city which, before two-thirds of the citywas reduced to rubble after 1992, consisted of ethnic, geographic orreligious-oriented wards and suburbs. Social stratification along occupationallines was also clear although over the past few decades lines tended to blursignificantly.

A typical Kabuli speaks Dari in addition to his mother tongue and, whethermale or female, is urbane, favors European fashions, is secularly educated, andmost probably works as a bureaucrat, shopkeeper/owner or in the service sector.Many have had professional education or experience abroad, live in apartments orsingle-family dwellings, are Western-oriented in outlook and enjoy cosmopolitanlifestyles. It is this image which conservatives, especially those such as therural Taliban find unpalatable, a symbol of moral degradation which must beeradicated if a truly Islamic state is to be established in Afghanistan.

Many Kabuli who remained in Kabul during the Soviet-Afghan War have sinceleft because they find the attitudes of the new leadership incompatible. Theyare now displaced in cities inside Afghanistan, living as refugees in Pakistanor resettled abroad. Their absence will severely hinder the reestablishment ofviable administrative and economic systems necessary for the reconstruction anddevelopment of Afghanistan.


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